Cathay Pacific's Airbus A321neo business class seat has broken cover, months before the jet itself is expected to take wing from early-mid 2021.
Snapped on a factory-fresh A321neo with protective plastic still lining the aisles, this next-generation regional business class is – as the airline itself had tipped – a deep recliner rather a flatbed.
12 of these seats crown the pointy end of the A321neo, arranged in three rows of two-across, with sliding panels between the paired seats for a bit of extra privacy.
In common with Cathay's previous regional business class, shown below, this model is mounted into a fixed shell: the seat reclines within its own space, rather than pushing into the space of the passenger behind.
(And while allowances must be made for cabin lighting, Cathay's A321neo has clearly adopted more subdued tones than the traditional Cathay green.)
The seat itself is Collins Aerospace' Air Rest, which made its debut on Oman Air's Boeing 737 MAX in 2018, so until Cathay Pacific shares some officially-sanctioned PR photos, these images from Oman Air will show more of the seat's features.
This side view shows the 'space' assigned to each passenger, with the seat already pre-reclined.
Keep your finger on the recline button and the seat begins to move into a sundeck-style 'lazy Z': the rear slides down, the seat pan angles up a bit and the legrest swings into place.
All this is done within the seat's shell and dedicated passenger space, rather than impinging on the traveller behind.
In replacing its current regional business class, which debuted in January 2013, Cathay deliberately chose to avoid fully lie-flat beds which typically require more cabin space and result in fewer premium seats.
Vivian Lo, Cathay Pacific’s Head of Customer Experience & Design, has previously told Executive Traveller that with "the majority of the flights are below two hours, stretched to four and at most six", those flight durations did not require the lie-flat luxury of a business class bed.
What routes will Cathay's A321neo jets fly?
16 A321neo jets were previously slated for regional airline Cathay Dragon, which has since been shut down: Cathay Pacific will add those A321neos, along with other Cathay Dragon single-aisle Airbus jets, to its fleet.
Two A321neo aircraft have already been delivered to Cathay Pacific this month, with four more headed for the Hong Kong hangars in 2021 and 10 to follow in 2022 "and beyond," the airlines says.
However, which cities will be visited by these fuel-efficient jets will depend on the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on border restrictions and overall travel demand.
"The entry into service and the routes onto which those aircraft will be deployed really depends on the recovery," Cathay Pacific COO Greg Hughes remarked in August, "and how that develops over the coming months, so we don’t yet have a firm plan on that."
A second tranche of 16 A321neos was slated for low-cost sibling HK Express – which Cathay acquired in 2019 for $915 million – from 2022 "and beyond".
Meanwhile, Cathay Dragon's network – which encompasses some 50 destinations across Asia, with around half of those being in mainland China – will be split between Cathay Pacific, which will take over the more popular and premium-heavy routes, and HK Express, for predominately leisure routes frequented by more price-sensitive passengers.